“Hey, we’re on Twitter!”

When you hear that from a business, it’s usually a good sign that the company is embracing social media and taking appropriate steps to engage their customers and interact with their most loyal followers. Making the commitment to start a social media campaign from within a company is a good first step. However it’s not the only step that a business needs to take to effectively use social media to generate more interest in the company and in their products or services. In fact, many business are failing miserably at properly using social media to reach customers.

The biggest misconception about initiating a social media campaign for a business is that it’s quick and easy to do. Starting out, it might seem as simple as establishing a few accounts with the most popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and then just adding some content. The problem many businesses quickly discover is that content doesn’t write itself. And reposting or retweeting content doesn’t help much in establishing you and your company as an authoritative voice among your followers. Sure it’s helpful to post useful info or retweet links to relevant articles that your followers might be interested in. Just don’t underestimate the power of original, company-generated content and how important that is to really making any progress in the social world.

I wish I could tell you that getting started in social media is as easy as setting up a Twitter account and uploading your company logo. In reality, it takes time and effort. Thankfully, there are some easy and fairly inexpensive solutions to getting your social media campaign up and running smoothly. Here are some tips on getting your social media efforts off the ground quickly and with fewer headaches:

1. Recruit some help. Sure most social sites are free to join and use. Content creation, on the other hand, is not included and you’re on your own with that part of the process. Or maybe not… The social market has given way to a whole new world of freelance talent who are experts in all things social. From content creation to page design to social media development and everything in between, thousands of willing and able folks are out there ready to lend a hand. When it comes to writing content for your social media campaign, consider finding a freelance writer who is an expert in your industry and can provide a few pieces of content on a monthly or weekly basis.

2. Participate in the community. One of the biggest mistakes companies make in embarking on a campaign is trying to do all of the talking in their own bubble. Venture outside of your Twitter page or Facebook wall and engage with your customers or clients. If you are strapped for time, refer back to tip #1 above and consider contracting a freelancer to deploy scheduled blog posts, Facebook updates, or tweets.

3. Speaking of blogs… One of the most powerful ways to not only improve your social media popularity but also your overall effectiveness in online promotions and search ranking optimization is to create and maintain a blog. Use your blog to deploy all of that great new content and promote it through your social channels. If you post a great article on your blog about your latest and greatest product release, be sure to link up your social accounts so that your blog content is automatically announced on your social sites.

4. Start conversations. This is sort of tied in with #2. Don’t just blast statements out at your followers. Your ultimate goal in a social media campaign is to get people talking about you and your business. Just like in the offline world, an online discussion is a two (or more) way street. Don’t just shout at people. Ask questions, get your readers and followers to respond to your ideas and thoughts. Get your coworkers involved and have them help you in starting these online conversations.

5. Take risks, take a side. The bigger the company, the more careful you will need to be about this. But as a general rule in social media, be willing to take chances and have an opinion. People don’t just want headlines in their social news feeds. Your customers want to know why they should care about anything you have to say to them. Tell them why your new service is useful, or why your new product is worth their time and money. If you are feeling especially daring, consider using social media to promote a viral marketing campaign (think Old Spice Ad Campaign). Create some attention-grabbing video content and use it to get your customers talking and linking back to you.

If your business is just retweeting articles once a week, I’m sorry to have to tell you that your company sucks at social media. Fortunately, social media content generation is not as daunting a task as it seems and with a little effort, you can launch a true social media campaign and generates real results and turns your customers into your biggest advocates and promoters.